In hot, summer temperatures, fabrics that wick away perspiration and cool the skin will make your bushwalking experience much better. so we've prepared this guide to help you understand which natural textiles to rely on during this season’s sweltering sweat-fest.
Many avid bushwalkers insist that one can’t go past natural fibres to help shield us from the elements, and indeed there is much to recommend them. First and foremost, they are far more sustainable and produce less post-manufacture pollution than synthetics, although they generally wear out faster. But do they perform as well in the heat of high season?
Cotton – Let’s get this out of the way first: pure cotton is almost never a suitable material for outdoor gear. It’s absorbs water, staying wet and heavy, and when the temperature drops i.e. at night, it cools rapidly, sucking heat from the body. Plus, unless it is organically-grown it requires an unholy amount of water to produce.
Merino – Once popular, then forgotten, and now heralded as a super-fabric, finely-spun merino wool is a much better choice. It regulates the wearer’s temperature, heating or cooling when necessary, is highly UV resistant, wicks reasonably well and is super comfy. It doesn’t dry as fast as synthetics will and it can be pricey, but merino remains many people’s trekking layer of choice.
Bamboo – Bamboo clothes? No, we’re not talking about some wooden armour-clad samurai. Pulped bamboo can actually be broken down with an enzyme (called ‘retting’), washed and a fibre extracted which can be woven into cloth. At this point it becomes a textile called Rayon (which can also be made from many types of wood pulp) which is surprisingly soft and has all the right properties - wicking, odour-repelling, sustainability and sun protection, and when blended with elastane is stretchy enough for any activity. The downside? It also doesn’t dry as fast as the man-made options.
Silk – Less popular than other fabrics for outdoor use, partially due to its expense, silk actually performs very well as an insulator and is famously luxurious against the skin. Unfortunately spun silk does not have good enough abrasion resistance to be used in outdoor clothing without being blended with another fabric, usually nylon or cotton. Lastly, it is quite absorbent and doesn’t react well to sweat or UV light, making it less than ideal for that breezy summer shirt.
Words_Dan Slater (trekandtravel.com.au)